As a pastor, the larger the church becomes the greater the tension I have between being available and being accessible. That has been equally true every time God has given me more leadership responsibility.
Leader, have you ever felt this tension?
I’ve learned to be effective – and to protect my family and avoid burnout, I can’t always do both.
Truth be told, there are usually too many demands on my time to always be available. Sometimes there are more requests for my time than hours in the day. As a pastor, Sunday is always coming. As the senior leader of an organization, I receive dozens – some days hundreds – of emails, texts and phone calls – every single day.
As a leader, I simply am not always available.
- I must make the most effective use of my limited time.
- The best person to meet with everyone may not be me.
- I must spend time investing in the staff with whom I work.
- It requires ample time for future planning – and even dreaming. (It is not a luxury, but a necessity.)
- I may sometimes need to refer people to someone who is more available at the time.
Some weeks, just being honest, sadly, I end up saying “No” more than I get to say “Yes”.
If time were limitless – I’d rather always be available. As with most leaders, it’s easier for me to say yes than it is to say no. I’m always more popular when I do.
But popular isn’t a good goal in leadership. It’s seldom an effective goal.
I can’t always be available, but this shouldn’t mean I’m unreachable.
I try to be accessible.
- I genuinely want people to be served and to serve people.
- Online becomes a good option. (I don’t hide my contact information.)
- I make sure emails and phone calls are returned in a reasonable time – hopefully by the end of each day.
- Responsiveness is a huge personal value and I lead our team to do likewise.
- I always try to help people get the help or answer they need.
Of course, like anything, this doesn’t make everyone happy. Some want me always available to them. But the goal of leadership is not to make everyone happy – it’s to lead people to a better reality than today. To do this, I must make effective use of my time.
I share this because there are so many pastors facing real burnout. They are struggling with effectiveness. Their family life is suffering. All because they tried to always be available, when all they needed to be was accessible.
(By the way, the church leaders in Acts 6 understood this tension. Read it again to see how they responded.)
Pastor/leader – the tension is real. But realize you can be accessible (or delegate accessibility to others) even if you’re not always available.